If there has ever been anything that Purdue men's basketball fans could seemingly always rely on at his time of year, other than a continuous frigid wind howling outside of Mackey Arena, it has been that their favorite team would at least always battle opponents on the court.
The Boilermakers haven't always had the most athletic, most skilled, biggest, or most talented teams through their decades of success, but they always battled.
That isn't the case lately and it has eighth-year coach Matt Painter perplexed and perturbed.
“Hopefully we can learn a lot from this past week,” Painter said.
Purdue (11-11, 4-5 Big Ten) will travel to Penn State (8-13, 0-9) at 7 p.m. today (Big Ten Network).
Painter's crew is coming off consecutive losses to Indiana and at Northwestern by a combined 52 points, as well as having dropped three of its past four games.
After a demoralizing 37-point loss at Mackey to the Boilers' biggest rival (Indiana), the team followed that effort up with its starting center (A.J. Hammons) oversleeping prior to the Northwestern trip and being late for the team bus, which was then followed by starting the game by allowing the Wildcats to score the first 12 points of the game.
“We have to do a better job of competing,” Painter said. “We have to do a better job of executing on both ends of the court. I think that is all where it starts with. Just playing hard.”
It's difficult to fathom a Purdue squad not “just playing hard,” but the Boilermakers need to do so beginning tonight if it has any hopes of a post-season.
Following tonight's game, Purdue hosts Michigan State, has to go on the road to Illinois and Indiana, before hosting Northwestern.
A loss tonight could put the Boilers into a non-recovery situation. However, for the time being, Painter is still confident that the season can be salvaged.
“There are a lot of things when you get beat like we did against Indiana,” Painter explained, “there are more than just a couple of issues. There are a lot of issues. We have to start playing harder and competing and doing a better job of simply doing our job. But I do think that it is correctable.”
Painter takes honor with grain of salt
Hammons was honored on Monday as the Big Ten Freshman of the Week, but Painter wasn't boasting about the honor. In fact, he was surprised by it.
“I was kind of shocked,” Painter said of the award, “because we lost both games. You probably shouldn't get an award if you lose games. But he has done a good job for us.”